By: Dn. Herman Garrison
The 2019 October Lecture Series continued this week by building on previous lectures given about the Autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in America. Archpriest Thomas Soroka of Saint Nicholas Orthodox Church in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, was the night’s speaker. His lecture was enlightening yet challenging, especially to the diverse audience of students, clergy, and laity in attendance.
Saint Tikhon’s was honored to have guests from its sister seminary, Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, including: Fr. Chad Hatfield (President), Dr. Ionut Alexandru Tudorie (Academic Dean), Mr. Alexandru Popovici (Academic and Recruitment Advisor), and Ms. Sarah Werner (Marketing Director, SVS Press).
During the talk, Fr. Thomas reflected on his own personal experience of what it was like to grow up Orthodox in America at the dawn of Autocephaly. He noted that there had been an outpouring of new educational material, books, and music as new parishes were being established. He remarked that it was “a vibrant Orthodox faith and there was a transition in the Church to help growth”.
The prophetic words of Fr. John Meyendorff were brought to the fore, wherein he encouraged the new Church to recognize the goals ahead and be thoughtful in consideration of how to engage those goals. Fr. John reminded us of the words of St. Paul who said this mission work was for the “building of the Body of Christ”, and he continued in his essay, stating, “we have to build churches, schools, and missions, but first of all, we must build an authentic and strong Orthodox consciousness in our clergy and laity…so that the true Orthodox witness may be a dynamic witness in American society…”
Fr. Thomas picked up on this theme to remind us that we must have a sense of urgency in fulfilling our mission. We cannot be a bastion for a chosen few, but we must bring the Kingdom of God to everyone in our land. This will mean that we must equip parishes, priests, and lay people to fulfill mission work through better communication and the sharing of resources.
A host of Orthodox missionaries were discussed; in particular, Fr. Thomas highlighted Saint Paul and the early North American missionaries. He underscored three traits of our missionary ancestors: faithful clarity, unquestioning certainty, and sacrificial urgency — which was the keystone to all their efforts. He noted that they knew what God had called them to do and they spoke and acted with authority. It is important not to be distracted by naysayers or obstructionists.
Additionally, we must act with urgency. Others are doing the work, and we cannot be lethargic or apathetic. We also cannot wait for canonical anomalies to be solved.
Fr. Thomas stressed that the mission of the OCA has already been clearly stated, and it is up to us to act upon it.